Harsher sentences for misuse of lasers to avoid ‘catastrophic incidents’

Offenders who recklessly shine or direct lasers at aircraft could end up with a five-year prison term under new laws.

Dec 20, 2017

Offenders who recklessly shine or direct lasers at aircraft could end up with a five-year prison term under new laws. The Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill, published on Wednesday (December 20), also expands the list of vehicles to trains, road vehicles, boats and even hovercraft. And prosecutions will be made easier by removing the need to “prove an intention” to endanger a vehicle. It will be an offence to deliberately shine or direct a laser that dazzles or distracts a vehicle operator, or if reasonable precautions to avoid doing so are not taken. Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said: “Lasers can dazzle, distract or blind those in control of a vehicle, with serious and potentially even fatal consequences. “The Government is determined to protect pilots, captains, drivers and their passengers and take action against those who threaten their safety.” Last year, the Civil Aviation Authority received 1,258 reports of laser shinings with Heathrow being the most frequent location for incidents. The new Bill will see offenders receive a five-year maximum prison sentence and an unlimited fine – previously limited to £2,500 – or both. British Airline Pilots` Association (BALPA) general secretary Brian Strutton said: “This is good news for transport safety. BALPA pilots and other transport workers have raised the growing threat of laser attacks for some time. “The Government’s announcement of a Bill to tackle the misuse of lasers is therefore very welcome and we will work with the Department for Transport to ensure its effective and speedy implementation. “BALPA also welcomes the BEIS consultation on restrictions to the supply of certain lasers which we hope will move forward quickly.” Commander Simon Bray, national lead for lasers, added: “Recklessly shining a laser at an aircraft or another moving vehicle is deeply irresponsible and dangerous. By causing a distraction or, in some cases, short or long-term eye damage, laser attacks can lead to catastrophic incidents. “These new and robust measures send a clear message to perpetrators: laser attacks are a crime and serious consequences will follow from committing this offence. “It is essential that the police have the powers required to support these measures and we will continue to work with the Government to ensure that these powers are in place.” In August, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ran a call for evidence on the sale of laser pointers. It is currently considering the findings before it is due to respond in the new year.

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